The retail landscape is witnessing a new wave of disruption. As the lines between social media and commerce become increasingly blurred, social commerce is changing the way products are purchased today.
Meet Pulkit Agrawal, the CEO, and co-founder of Trell, India’s largest social commerce platform. Launched in 2017, Trell is on a two-fold mission. The first is to enable users to connect with relevant content creators and discover lifestyle trends around their interests and the second is to empower homegrown brands to become more discoverable.
Tune into this episode of The AI-Native Podcast by Blox.ai, and listen to Pulkit, in conversation with Ashwini Asokan, CEO, and founder of Blox.ai, talk about:
Akshara Subramanian: Welcome to a brand new episode of the AI-Native Podcast by Blox.ai, where we talk to business leaders across the world about their journeys with A.I. Our guest for today is Pulkit Agrawal, the CEO and co-founder of Trell, India's largest lifestyle commerce app. Launched in 2017, Trell has emerged as one of the largest social commerce platforms in India with 45 million monthly active users. Trell's mission in India is two-fold. First, it enables users to connect with relevant content creators and discover lifestyle trends around their interests across categories such as beauty, fashion, and wellness, among others. Its second mission is to empower homegrown brands to reach out to its massive audience through its robust network of influencers or Key Opinion Leaders, as they like to call them. With the social commerce segment in India projected to reach $70 billion by 2030, Trell is poised to be at the forefront of the social commerce revolution. Pulkit will be in conversation with Ashwini Asokan, the CEO, and founder of Blox.ai - the A.I. platform that's enabling the next generation of businesses to become AI-Natives. They'll be talking about Trell's journey, their tech stack, social commerce, and more! Welcome, Pulkit and Ashwini, I'm glad to have both of you here. Pulkit Agrawal: Great, thanks a lot Akshara and Ashwini, for having me over here. Glad to be speaking with you in this podcast. Ashwini Asokan: Really exciting to have you Pulkit. I've been waiting for this for quite a while now. There's a lot to be said about the space you're in right now, especially as it relates to the markets in India in this space. So very excited to see what you have to say. Akshara Subramanian: So first up, Pulkit, congratulations on your fundraise. It's been very exciting to see the milestones that Trell has been scaling, especially since we've been following Trell's journey for some time now. It's quite an interesting story. You started off in 2017 as a video blogging platform with a vision to bring meaningful content to the average consumer. And today, you're one of India's largest lifestyle social commerce platforms catering to over 45 million monthly active users. Tell us a little bit more of the story of Trell since inception and the success you've seen over the last few years. Pulkit Agrawal: Sure, thanks, Akshara. I start a bit from why we started Trell, right. So, me, being a foodie and my other co-founders who are into backpacking, gadgets, fashion, etc, used to scout for a lot of meaningful content on the internet, right, and we were still in college at that point in time, this was probably 2015-2016. And being a college student, you had these regular queries, right? Like how do you dress up for various occasions, be it parties, or weddings, or dates, etc? Or how do you cook basic recipes from your hostel room with limited appliances and ingredients that are present? Or, let's say, how do you find a lot of street-food destinations around you, right? Because being a foodie, I like to explore a lot of things around it. And whenever we used to scout for these queries on the internet, right and search for it, we used to end up with a lot of content, which was very Westernized in culture and context, for example, when it comes to cooking, they would suggest something involving cocoa powder, marshmallows, baking. Being a guy coming from a Tier-2 city, I didn't relate with any of these terms and I had to literally Google about the meaning of them. Similarly, when it comes to fashion, they would suggest you things which are very Westernized in context, like, for example, for almost all the occasions, they would suggest you tuxedos with tight pants and those kinds of things which do not work in a cultural set up like Indian weddings, right? And we said that hey, it's becoming difficult to really relate with the content which is there on the Internet. And given that we are facing this problem ourselves, just imagine tomorrow, 99% percent of the Indians, when they would be coming on the Internet, they'll be having a really horrible experience, right, they will not be able to search and find something of their own native. And this is where we said that we need to solve for the discovery of meaningful content on the Internet to enable people to make better decisions or lifestyle choices. And that's how the journey started, just for kind of solving this problem. In the initial days, when we, kind of, went about it. It was more like a chicken-egg problem. "How do you start?" And one of the things that we learned about it is that if we want this solution to be scalable, to be able to impact the lives of the last node in the country, then it has to be a community, a very large community, which is essentially enabling this content coming from the roots and corners of India or, let's say, specific regions and being able to share what they do in their day-to-day stuff, to inspire somebody like us to make those decisions. So that's how we kind of arrived, to one of the problems, one of the solutions for the problem, that is "how do we build a community of people who are passionate to talk about all of these interests on the internet in Indian languages?" This is where we said that in order to build a community initially, you don't require any app or anything kind of a tool. What you require is this ability to understand what ties this community together? What is that fundamental thing because of which they would want to bond together with each other, share their experiences, etc? So what we did was, we went onto the existing distribution channels like Facebook groups, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and all of these channels. We started to kind of get in touch with a lot of bloggers, photographers, foodies, lifestyle experts, etc. When we got in touch with them, we started to, kind of, curate some of the videos and photographs that they have taken and started ourselves as a very simple Instagram page or a Facebook page. And then we started curating content and sharing it on these platforms, right. So a lot of these guys had great multimedia, but they did not have any sort of distribution. So, we curated all of this content and started sharing it on the internet and this is where, in a matter of, like, 6 months, we kind of grew from almost 0 users to more than 100,000 followers across Instagram and the other channels that we had. And that gave us a huge confidence in saying that, "Hey, with 0 money spent if we could engage so many users by just sharing meaningful content in regional languages, just imagine if this community comes on a central platform, it could kind of, just blow up.” And those were the initial days in which we said that, "Hey, there is certainly a lot of demand for this kind of content, as we initially started out for. But how do you kind of solve for the content creation? How do you, kind of, get more and more content creators to do the same activity that we were doing?" This is where, in the initial days, we used to meet a lot of these bloggers, photographers, experts through meet-ups, right. We used to have photographic meet-ups, food meet-ups, lifestyle meetups, etc wherein used to invite people together to share their experiences in the offline world. And we used to understand, you know, the limited people who are creating the content, why they're doing it, and what's really stopping others to kind of really do it on the Internet. This is where we gathered 2 major insights about the users in India, which led to the formation of Trell. The first insight that we gathered about our users was that if you see in India today, a lot of people like to call themselves by these second names that "I want to be a foodie, I want to be a traveler, I want to be a fashionista. I want to be a backpacker". And they take so much pride in calling themselves by these second names and they want to make it as a value chain. Now, this kind of behavior did not exist like 10 years back, 15 years back, that this was a very recent phenomenon where people wanted to kind of, build something like this. And this is why we said that the future of this is going to be a community which was, kind of, going to revolve around the interest and passion of people. Wherein they want to, kind of, switch their 9-to-5s to these interests and passion. And there's no community today online which is catering to it. Like, where is a platform wherein you could call yourself as a stylist, where is a platform where you would call yourself as a fashionista, where can you share your experiences about your discoveries of travel or expeditions? So this is where we found a gap in the ecosystem. And we said that "Hey, we can make a platform where people would be recognized by these names or these characteristics." The second thing that we learned during those days was that if you see if you meet all of these bloggers in the offline world, they are amazing storytellers. They take you through about, how they go about cooking various recipes for various occasions, what goes through their mind when they're, kind of, deciding to do something for an occasion. While they travel, what kind of things they, kind of, think about when they're going there, what kind of experiences they have over there, while they decide a dress for an occasion, what goes through their mind and they're very vocal about it and amazing storytellers, like, you get so many insights and so many learnings when you kind of sit with them and do this. But when you see their online profiles, let's say for a matter of fact, their Instagram profile, you see fragmented photographs, without any description, not giving you any insight about what this person actually knows. So a storyteller in the offline world becomes a photographer in the online world and there was a certain mismatch that was there. And we tried to understand why that is happening. When you kind of double tap on that, you realize that in the offline world, they're speaking in their native languages, they're speaking in Hindi, Marathi, or whatever they are comfortable with. Whereas in the online world, they feel that it's more of an English place, it's a glossy world that people are going to London, Paris, etc and they're going to share everything in English because everybody thinks so. And that is not something which they're comfortable with, which inhibited, to be able to express more freely in the online world. So we understood that languages are going to play a very major role in order to make the audience comfortable, to express freely and casually about all of these experiences that they're going through. So that was the second insight. And we said that today in order to make or enable people to be able to express in their own languages, it could be only done through visual platforms because we as Indians have not been trained on vernacular keyboards or regional keyboards to be able to express so well in the form of text. And that is where we needed something which is as intuitive and as easy like a video to be able to do that. So we combined all of these insights together in order to come up with a visual blogging tool, in 2017. And this is how we launched Trell as a visual blogging tool for people to express about their passion and interest on the Internet. That's what led to the germination of Trell and the rest is history. Ashwini Asokan: I absolutely love those two insights and the way that you actually broke down that, like one pillar being storytelling - how do you actually get, and the storytelling part, if anything seems very tied to identity like you were talking about, like I am backpacker, I am a fashionista, or a blogger, or whatever. It feels like, almost like a space where people are, it's like blogging 2.0, really. Except you're doing it through a visual medium, largely that's one way. But on the other hand, the native language, the vernacular part of it is something that we've been very interested in. We've been chatting about how you guys launched Trell in the Tamil, and Trell in Telugu, and Trell in like, and it was fantastic to watch, kind of you guys launching each one by each state. Tell us a little bit about that tension between having so many languages coexist, because if you think largely about most of the other Indian video platforms in India, I mean, most of it is in Hindi, right, for the most part. And you might have a couple of different vernaculars, a couple of other languages there from the north. But it's not, it's not where people go to share across different languages, in whatever language that they speak. I mean, it's not the same way as the way, was there tension between those choices? Between saying, "Hey, you know, we're pushing someone purely from a storytelling, say whatever story you want." And at the same time, there's also a little bit of like micro-communities, right? There is this hyper-local version of this, because you want it to be specific to that language, specific to the state. Some of the content obviously will transcend language and state, I'm sure, but it feels like there's a bit of both going on. Can you tell us a little bit about how you work that? How does that work for you? Pulkit Agrawal: So I think one of the biggest fallacies is that when somebody creates content, you give them a language to select and post over there, right? What was important to understand was whether these languages become micro-communities in themselves or it should be kind of a very open platform wherein people post whatever in whatever language they want, right and I think when we retrospected about that, we related it with some of our own personal experiences. So while I was there in IIT-Mumbai, there used to be a lot of local groups, like Marathi groups used to be called Baaghi, and they used to have these South Indian groups, especially Tamil had separate groups, Telugu people had separate groups etc, wherein they used to kind of feel like home. They shared instances and stories around each other, and that's where they had a lot of comfort to be able to come up with stories in their natives. And then when we kind of shifted to Bangalore, to, kind of, look at the community here because we were interacting with a lot of Kannada audience who are here, we found that when you kind of talk to the localites, they like to speak in their native and be able to kind of converse in the language of the people around them and specially saying the anecdotes, which are very, very local and shows the pop culture of that region. So for example, I might not be following some of the movies over here in Kollywood or Tollywood, and they would speak some instances of that and 5 people around you would know all about it and they would laugh at that joke, but I might just completely be zoned out about it. Whereas I think some of the movie instance, let's say, from a North Indian, Hindi movie, they might have not watched it then they might not relate with it. So we understood for a matter of fact, that there are already micro-communities existing in our country, wherein people are able to touch base on the anecdotes and the local insights and be able to kind of do conversation around. And because we could see this happening in the offline world, we said, "Hey, this will happen in the online world, as well". Wherein they would want a community which is more comfortable in their own languages and hence we need to, kind of, enable these micro-communities on the platform. And hence, when you come on Trell, we first ask you, "Hey, what is your specific language?" So that we are able to connect you with that audience as a micro-community. But we don't restrict you to consume content only from that language on the basis of the engagement, we enable more languages like Hindi and English, which you might be speaking right, because in India, almost everybody's multilingual, they know a regional language, plus they know either Hindi or English to kind of go ahead with it. So those were some of the things that we had, with our experience with some of the community that we, kind of, saw, sprinkling around us and we made it a part of the product journey. And hence, you see, we enable micro-communities across languages. Akshara Subramanian: Great story there Pulkit, and I think there are some other interesting things that really stood out for us. One was introducing the shop feature on your platform and being able to expand your platform to social commerce. Ernst and Young recently said that social commerce is what's helping India move from interaction to transactions. So we're seeing social commerce really gain momentum and market projections look upward of 70 billion by 2030. But what is it like on the ground, right? How are you seeing the demand for social commerce grow? Pulkit Agrawal: Absolutely, when we started Trell we never thought that we would do social commerce. It was something, we wanted, that came to us, right? We started working on this whole segment, 2 years back, when social commerce was, as a word, not coined. When we started working on videos as a vlog, vlog was not coined as a word, today vlog is the mainstream. When we started working on social commerce, I don't think people knew what social commerce means and it happened more naturally to was. Talking about on-ground, the way, it kind of came into the picture for us, is that if you think about these influencers who are emerging on a platform like Trell, who are sharing meaningful content that you and essentially educating you about various experiences and their passion that they discovered, you start to see that all of these influencers are nothing but content creators and nothing but subject matter experts. They know something about their interest in fashion very deeply as compared to anybody else. Now, if you think about how these subject matter experts eventually monetize their content over a period of time, they typically do it through either writing a blog on a WordPress or on a Medium.com on various other sites, like integrating either the ads or the subscription or affiliate coupons. These were the three, kind of, modes through which they monetize. For us, it was very important that if we wanted to unlock this value for the large Indian masses, our content creators who are sharing content should be able to earn sustainably from the platform. That is what will motivate them to be able to share more of these insights, experiences with the larger crowd and be able to help them in making a better choice around their passion. So that was a fundamental thesis that "How do we enable these people to become micro-entrepreneurs?" We understand that there are 3 ways in which people typically monetize, and we understood, as a matter of fact, from our consumer behavior that a lot of users were asking these influencers on comments that, "Hey, this dress that you're wearing today is very interesting. Where did you buy this? And can I contact you, can I pay you to buy this?" Or let's say, "the product that you're applying, where buy this product from?" So we could already see that users are essentially looking out for these products, asking influencers or Key Opinion Leaders about where they could shop that from. And we said, let's combine these 2 insights together and launch commerce, wherein we could get brands onboard, onboard, on the platform. They could essentially partner with these influencers or Key Opinion Leaders to educate the last audience or the users about the benefits or the usage of these products. And at the end of the day, if the sales happen, the user gets to get the product that they would always searching for while they were watching the videos, influencer gets to earn out of it and brands get the visibility till the last node of the country, and because it made intuitive sense for us, we said, "Hey, we'll go deep into social commerce, enable commerce for these influencers. And let's see how it would work out.” Fortunately, things have worked out well for us. Ashwini Asokan: I mean, you almost want to say this right? It feels like, you know, with every brand, like every brand wants discoverability, like, how does a brand get discovered? I think even on Twitter just a couple of days ago, this is everywhere. Every brand wants to know how they get discovered, right. D2C brands are all the news today, right and discoverability is such a problem for them. For a platform like Trell, you guys have users, like people who are coming to just enjoy the video, you guys have, like influencers, which is people who are actively creating that content and influencing specific decisions, right? And then you have brands where kind of the third, it almost feels like, other than the first part of the conversation, we just had which was all about storytelling, local language representation, like, there seems to be a whole other part of it that is triggered by the social commerce which is the bringing together of people who, shoppers, you know, influencers and brands. Tell us a little bit about how you are curating brands, what role do they play here and how you're curating these three different sets of stakeholders almost, sitting on your platform today? Pulkit Agrawal: So I think when you, kind of, think about the brands right, what they're looking for in the first phase is the feedback when they're kind of coming up with new products, when they're coming up in new formulations like they're looking for the feedback from subject matter experts, which can help them in improving and solving really the needs of the customer that this is targeted for. With the help of Trell, they are able to get in touch with these influencers and be able to really make the formulations right so that they get a product-market fit in some sense. The second stage that brands are looking for is building awareness and trust in the ecosystem. The only way that they could do that is by ensuring that they partner with people who already have trust in the ecosystem and these influencers over a long period of time have built enough trust with the consumers by making sure they're talking about authenticity and they're talking about the things that really matter to the influencer. Now, when these brands, kind of, partner with these influencers, they're able to essentially talk about the things which work out for you, as a user and which does not work for you, as a user, which essentially builds trust on the product or service that the brand was talking about. Second, what it leads to is a word of mouth. So, awareness just solves from the content. Essentially, word of mouth, helps you in understanding that, "Hey, how this product could become better over a period of time? How it could reach the nooks and corners of the country." And that can happen through content and not just by advertisement. So this is where essentially brands have understood, for a matter of fact, that the creativity and storytelling of influencers and subject matter experts play a very important role in essentially establishing trust, awareness, and viability for them. And this is where essentially we step in and essentially help brands in, kind of, partnering with the right influencers through the algorithms that we have. Whenever a brand comes we understand what they stand for, what kind of audience they are making their product for and what kind of USPs they have that they want specifically look out for. And then we find the influencers who kind of match the similar profile, who has the audience which might be interested in what this brand is offering, and through the matchmaking of algorithms, we provide them some of the influencers' list who might be willing to talk about the product. Whenever brands kind of, shortlist certain influencers they want to work with, we check with the influencers if they are interested in the product and the partnership happens. So that's a very simple process in which there is a buy-in from a brand that is a buy-in from the influencer who believes that the product is useful, in case they find it useful, and then they create content authentically to educate the masses about it. And this helps everybody in the ecosystem, to be able to go for them. And that is what essentially as a system we have built to enable brands to get distribution. That is one thing. Second thing you touched upon about the D2C industry right, I think there is plethora of space for various brands to exist in India. We are just scratching the surface today. If you think about India from the origin, we are a very heterogeneous market, very sparse market, within every 200-500 kilometers the products that people use, the language people use, the things that they do in their day-to-day life changes. For example, let's say in the southern part of our country, Mysore Sandal soap is very popular. But when you go to the northern part of the industry, probably something like a Dove or something like a different brand might be popular. When you go to the east, they have all different recipes. They kind of really make herbal products around tea, coffee, etc. If you see within our country itself, right, various parts of the country have very localized brands, very localized consumption, and all of them are large industries in the day-to-day world. This is yet to happen to the internet, right? The internet is still very much homogeneous in terms of the kind of brands you see today, right? And in the next 10 years, you will see a lot of localized and regional brands coming up, catering to the needs of the core audience very well and becoming large with that. So these are some of the things that we see can only happen if you have this all community together. You have influencers who can educate you. You know that you can target audience with them. You know that you can cater to a need of an audience, with your products. Ashwini Asokan: I mean it's really interesting. To be honest with you, this is the first time I've heard a little bit about, you know, every time you look at a platform, any kind of a social platform, there's a lot of top-down pushing of brands, right. Where the system or the platform curates the brands and then ends up pushing it. Even if you make someone like Instagram, if you take any of the bigger guys as well as the smaller guys, there's a very clear push. Like certain brands get their pages where you can shop. It's not available to everybody. It's less of a bottoms-up kind of, a bubbling of brands and it's more of a top-down structure. It's really interesting because what you just said is the exact opposite of that. You're talking about discoverability of brands that are super local, emerging because influencers and people in the ecosystem are pulling them, pulling brands rather than pushing brands down. That's a really fascinating concept. Yeah, yeah. Pulkit Agrawal: And I think, you know, hence the eCommerce will become more democratized over a period of time. Today on the regular eCommerce site you are able to discover limited brands. For example, if I ask you about the smartphone brands, you would be able to answer, probably like 4-5 brands which you would know, but there would be a lot of local brands also, which might be of great quality, which you are not aware of today. How do they get visibility? They can only get visibility if there is somebody who is educating the masses about it. And on the basis of their product power, then they can try some other thing. Ashwini Asokan: Really cool. It's really cool. Pulkit Agrawal: We're democratizing the whole branded marketplace, now. Akshara Subramanian: That's really interesting, Pulkit. And actually, you know, we had had a conversation with one of the D2C founders of the brand Dot&Key, so they were talking about how their initial product line was fairly straightforward. It was just a bunch of skincare products, but they basically sourced, crowd-sourced ideas from communities and from their community and from their influencers and then they were able to create a cellulite specific range or like a skin pigmentation specific range. And they wouldn't have been, they actively say that they wouldn't have been able to do that without the community. So I feel like that's such a large part of the success of all of these 3 stakeholders together. And I think the other thing you were talking about was the algorithm's basically helping connect brands and influencers, because in even in Instagram's case like Ashwini pointed out, brands go searching for people. You don't really have algorithms, they go searching for people and they're also looking at what the other brands are investing in. And it's not necessarily a fit for them. They just look at, "OK, these are the top five influencers in India. I'll go put my money in there as well, whether it's a fit or not." So I feel like that's, again, such a huge you know, that that person that plays the matchmaking role in between, that's a huge role to play. So I think that's very exciting to see how that works when all three are put together. I feel like that's really interesting. Pulkit Agrawal: Absolutely, just to add to that note, right, that even if you talk about the people, across the country, right, they have very different skin types, they have very different needs depending upon the climate and the temperature they're living in. If you go to Jammu & Kashmir, things will be very cold, versus, let's say you go to Rajasthan where are just things are very dry versus probably, let's say, Mumbai where the weather is probably humid. Akshara Subramanian: And Chennai, where it's so humid, you're always melting so yeah. Pulkit Agrawal: You cannot have one product, one fit for all, you cannot. We had to live with it in the past because there were limited opportunities and limited brands. But going ahead, with this education, people will be able to make more empowered choices about what they want to spend on. Akshara Subramanian: And in fact, that's actually kind of connected to my next question. A large part of the popularity of this format is kind of the sense of familiarity that it provides to each of these influencers, as well as the users that are working and looking at working with these influencers, given how vast and diverse the Indian population is, like you pointed out, talk to us about how you've succeeded in user retention. How do you keep bringing people back to the platform? How are you able to consistently engage with them or is a large part of it just the partnerships itself? We like to know a lot more about that. Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, I think that is a different problem statement, right? How do kind of, ensure that users engage and use your platform on a continuous basis? There's a lot of science and art that goes into building that. But simply, I think fundamentally the process is to understand what are the interests of a user that is coming onto your platform, understanding it through the data, matching it with your ML algorithms, and being able to show them what they're really looking for. So we have this entire team, which essentially only works towards retention of users. Their aim is to be able to profile them better, understand their attitudes, what age group, what gender, what geography, what kind of phone they're using, what network they're using, and then understanding what kind of content that they’re engaging with, what kind of influencer they are engaging with, right. So we take, like, more than a 100 data sets about an individual customer to be able to profile them really well, and then on the basis of the kind of content and the influencers who are creating this content on the phone, you matchmake them in order to build a community out of it. So how do you kind of show a consumer the right thing or influencer with whom they would want to kind of consume content? So, just sharing one of the anecdotes we were discussing within the team, right, every content creator in the same genre appeals to a different kind of audience. Let's say, if you talk about comedy for a matter of fact, AIB appeals to a lot of mass premium and premium audience. Then you go to a TVF that is more like a massier audience, more tier-2 audience or engineering audience, in their audience. When you go to let's say when you go to even the other players like Bhuvan Bam, they appeal to all sorts of mass audience and you can make out that, "Hey, these 3 different kinds of comedians or creators appeal to different sets of audiences just because of the anecdotes that they're sharing, it's so relatable to that set of audience.” Our aim is to be able to identify what kind of creator appeals to what kind of audience and be able to enable that matchmaking so that they could follow their content over a period of time. And all of that is done through profiling of everyone and establishing ML algorithms in between. Akshara Subramanian: Yeah, actually, that's really interesting because I was you know, I'm also thinking about how influencers make money on Trell versus how they make money on Instagram because, on Instagram off-late, I think influencers are constantly complaining about the fact that their content is not bumped up visually enough. But here they actually have an audience that's fairly curated for them. So they have their own niche audience and people that they can appeal to without worrying to lose a lot of other, I think, sets of audiences. Pulkit Agrawal: Absolutely, we have a separate following tab wherein we don't touch with the algorithms, it's kind of chronological in nature. If you follow a certain person, you get to see their content. We don't play around with that over there. Our algorithm’s job is just to matchmake the right influencer with the right person. Akshara Subramanian: That's amazing because, I mean, I think with Instagram, what's happened is that that's how it used to be 7-8 years ago. But today, obviously, that I think Instagram's benefit is about how many people engage with their platform. It's become about them and less about creators. So I feel like content creators are really struggling, especially the smaller ones, right, in the, say, the 10-50k range that want to go after that 100k range and be able to curate. So they always have like these Instagram rates and all of these things that are, that just don't make sense. You have to be in a certain bucket to actually be considered a real influencer. All these rules are there on Instagram, which I feel frustrates content creators. And I think that's where an app like Trell can make it so much more valuable and easy for them to tell their stories. Pulkit Agrawal: Sure, absolutely. I think, see, the way the philosophy with which Instagrams and the Facebooks of the world have developed is very different from the philosophy with which we have come. Their main aim was to connect people, they never spoke about, "You know, we want to empower creators." Which is not you know, their core forte. Every platform comes with their own philosophies and you know what, what do they really stand for and I think this is where we are very clear that we want to empower these creators to be able to really build an engaging audience and then be able to make a sustainable living, right, by various sources of income that we could generate for them on the platform. And hence we see that in the world of internet where you are located, does not matter in how much you earn. In the historical world, if you are in a Tier-1 city, that determines that, "Ok, you must be earning more than somebody in a Tier-3 city or something like that." And the internet just does not respect it, internet says, that it doesn't matter where you are, you have the equal opportunity. All you need to do is put in the right efforts in the right direction. So I think that is something which we as a platform, believe, at our very core, that we're enabling it for the ecosystem. Akshara Subramanian: Yeah, absolutely. Ok, so we're going to switch gears a little bit and kind of move into the tech side of things. So you've been very open about how the platform leverages the A.I./ML and algorithms to offer both creators as well as users, the best experience. So what do you, talk to about the areas where you're implementing A.I. and the impact it's had so far on Trell and the business. Pulkit Agrawal: Absolutely, I think if you talk about Trell, fundamentally, it's built on the ML and A.I. technologies that we are developing, right? And the idea is how do we use the application of this technology to incur benefit to the end consumers or the stakeholders involved in the ecosystem. When you kind of talk about that, I think India is at the cusp of real A.I. revolution. The reason for that is now internet has penetrated to more than 700 million internet users. Everybody's interacting on the Internet with various kinds of needs and motivation, which essentially leads to humungous data. And there is a need to be able to process this data really well to be able to get various outcomes. The outcomes can be showing the relevant product, the relevant ad, the relevant creator, the relevant content, what not, right, anything that you can imagine. So for us, we believe that this is fundamentally a very important aspect for us as an organization and we invest heavily into it. Now, the way we see the future is that in India, going forward, you would find all of these users, kind of, interacting with various ecosystems and they will be kind of sharing about their habits and about their way of living life onto these various ecosystems. And whosoever is able to leverage AI/ML to deliver the best user experience is going to be the one who's going to win. So we do not see AI/ML in isolation, we see it as a part of something which is delivering an experience to the end consumer. And whosoever does it well would eventually make the most value of it for everyone involved. Now getting into the specifics, for us, Trell, as I mentioned, we look into the matchmaking of the creators with the brands, we look at the matchmaking of users with creators, we look at breaking down of content into various buckets about what this content is about, what language it belongs to, what specific things people are talking about in content. So we do all the way from computer vision to essentially NLP technologies to be able to process this. What India also, offers as an opportunity is regional languages, right? And nobody has been able to kind of, really build a great outcome of the regional languages or build a personalized AI/ML engine for regional languages, because people have just come online. You could not have a historical model developed for these languages to be able to cater to that hobby. And this is where I think it gives a level playing field to almost everybody who technology enthusiast to create something, right, for this audience by decoding speech etc. Akshara Subramanian: Absolutely. And that brings us to the last question. So there's clearly no dearth of opportunity and growth in India right now, like you pointed out when it comes to social commerce and obviously Trell is leading the pack. What are your plans for expansion for the future? And how do you see the platform evolving into something much larger than it is today? Pulkit Agrawal: Sure, so we imagined Trell as a digital society where people come, interact to exchange, meaningful content to make better choices in life. And in this whole ecosystem that we are developing, we have various stakeholders, we have our users who are coming to discover and buy lifestyle trends. We have content creators who essentially looking for essentially building meaningful content, their profile and make a living out of this. And then you have brands out looking for the new ways of interacting with the consumers through word of mouth. I think so there are exciting opportunities itself that we are unlocking today. In terms of plans, we’ll just keep building this community to be even larger and into more categories. We'll expand our social commerce offerings, right, to more and more users and more and more categories and become that go-to destination for people wherein they could really do everything around lifestyle so that's where we are. Akshara Subramanian: I love what you said about the digital society, Ashwini Asokan: Me too, me too. I absolutely love that particular framing of the social world, with commerce in it, and with key players in it, as well as everybody doing it in their own language. I feel like their own languages. I feel like such a lovely combination of things that come together. Pulkit, I only have one question for you, which is, you know, everybody is saying Tik-Tok is coming back, you've got Instagram kind of really moving and a lot of people kind of participating in that. How do you see competition? How do you see the story of video panning out in India and the role of Trell there in the long term? Pulkit Agrawal: I think we have always been focused upon the consumers and their needs. We never cared about Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest being there in the ecosystem. Tik-Tok came, India got it banned, Tik-Tok gone, yes it helped somehow. But I don't think any of these competitors or any of these references, for the matter of fact, are trying to solve the problem rather than this is where I think as long as we keep our focus on consumers, understand their needs and keep innovating on top of it, right? It doesn't matter what those are doing, we will be able to find our way. And that's how we kind of operate. Akshara Subramanian: All right. That was wonderful. I think that brings us to the end of the podcast. Thank you so much Pulkit. I think we learned plenty and we've been like, super into the conversation throughout just because of how I think it resonates with all of us, even on a personal level, not just from a work standpoint so thank you so much for doing this and we hope to connect soon. Pulkit Agrawal: Thank you so much Ashwini and Akshara for inviting me. Always a pleasure to speak with you folks. And the best for your remaining series. Akshara Subramanian: For more episodes on why businesses need to be innovative and to understand how companies are using digital transformation to grow, head over to the AI-Native Podcast by Blox.ai to get your monthly dose of all things A.I. See you next time, buh bye.
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